Destination: Aqaba, Jordan
Number of Days Spent: 4 days
Where we stayed: Bedouin Garden Village - 25 JD - $33/night with breakfast, a pool (a godsend in the heat), AC & wifi
Who we dove with: Arab Divers - 22 JD/dive ($30/dive - you must book direct, negotiate and complete at least 6 dives to get this rate - we highly recommend this company, the dive master was terrific and the equipment in excellent condition)
Best restaurant: Arabic Moon - cold & creamy hummous (with meat & without), falafel, salad & Arabic bread...a feast for 2 with drinks (beers are sold elsewhere) was 6 JD ($9). This was hands down our favorite restaurant in the Middle East. The hordes of locals streaming in for lunch & dinner seem to agree! While we were in Israel (see future post) we seriously thought about crossing back across the border for another meal at this great local joint. It would have been worth it aside from the visa costs and border formalities...I wonder if they would have delivered to the border? Do you have anything to declare? I digress.
Best of: Warm water, crystal clear visibility & very few tourists make diving here a pleasure (Aqaba is supposedly what Sharm & Dahab were like 10-15 years ago).
Worst of: The "cool" ocean breeze felt like it was coming from a hot hair dryer. The local perverts like to hang out at the beach to catch a glimpse of the western women in bathing suits (the local women swim covered head to toe so we were quite the sensation in our "shocking" swimsuits).
Most Memorable: While we were preparing to dive near the Saudi Arabian border a jeep with a gun mounted on the top pulled up to us and soldiers (holding guns as well) jumped out to see what we were up to. Meanwhile we're standing there in our swimsuits, wetsuits half on and oxygen tanks in the trunk...hmmm.....it sure sounds like a mystery. No worries though, they just wanted to confirm that we had no plans to swim the 11 kilometers to the border to cross illegally. No thank you.
Useful tips: If you are heading to the beaches (ie Bedouin Garden Village) take the shared van for .50 JD instead of the taxi for 5JD. They leave from just next to the fort. Don't forget to negotiate to get that rate!
Day 1: Eat breakfast, dive in the Red Sea, spend the afternoon sitting in the pool reading & chatting with friends (this was the only place we could stand to be in the heat), late afternoon dive again, eat dinner, have a beer & go to bed.
Day 2: Repeat day 1.
Day 3: Repeat day 1.
A fantastic time was had by all :-) Here are the pictures to prove it!
Seriously, aside from diving/snorkeling Aqaba does not offer much else to the independent traveler. There are a few places offering water sports mainly to package tourists from Amman; but there are far better beaches in the world...and you don't have to worry about the perverts. Good thing the diving is pretty good.
After recharging our batteries a bit it was time to hit the trail. Next stop, off to the largest city in Africa: Cairo, Egypt.